Hard lives on the high seas

From shipwrecks to scurvy and fatal falls to lightning strikes, life in the Royal Navy was nothing if not tough, as Roy and Lesley Adkins describe

A painting of a shipwreck

This article was first published in the August 2008 edition of BBC History Magazine

After pumping out water for nearly 24 hours, the seamen were exhausted and the pumps were beyond repair. The weather was deteriorating and the attempt to save HMS Centaur had failed. Captain John Nicholson Inglefield later recalled how the seamen reacted: “Seeing their efforts useless, many of them burst into tears and wept like children… Some appeared perfectly resigned, went to their hammocks, and desired their messmates to lash them in; others were lashing themselves to gratings and small rafts; but the most predominant idea was that of putting on their best and cleanest clothes”.

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